Mt. Wai'ale'ale

Daring helicopter tour into Kauai's Mt. Waialeale.Helicopter Inside Caldera

Midway into our Bali Hai helicopter tour, we rounded a mountainous corner in a rain squall, and began to ascend a tumbling river amidst a verdant, overwhelming green. I was unable to see ahead and felt a bit unnerved. Abruptly we wheeled around, and this is the wonderous scene I saw out the side window as rain beat on the front windows of the chopper. The 5,148 ft. tall summit of Mt. Wai' ale' ale is lost in clouds that break only a few days per year. It is documented to rain just under 500 inches per year up there at the official rain guage at the summit. Out of those perpetual clouds, lacy waterfalls tumble into a vast, dark amphitheater, falling at least 1,000 ft, maybe a lot more. Water and green crowd fantastically, and despite the steepness and gloom, every inch of verical space is plastered with moss and ferns and weird tropical stuff. I felt suddenly odd, out of place, as though I were in a true Lost World, or maybe close to the Hawaiian Gods. All too soon, we turned tail and descended, soon popping out of the clouds into bright Hawaiian sun, back to normalcy in a few moments, except for the haunting green visions that have remained in my mind ever since.

Guidelines for Mt. Waialeale photographers (pre-digital, but some still applies)

As you can easily observe in my two blurry crater photographs above, vibration is a real problem in helicopter photography, made much worse inside a dimly-lit space such as the perpetually cloud-draped inner crater of Mt. Waialeale...... I recommend 400 to 800 speed film, and wide angle lenses. The results above were obtained with 100 speed film (far too slow!) and a 28mm lens (should have been a 24mm, or even a 20mm!). My father in law, a pilot, reminds me to caution you: Keep your camera and hands away from contact with the aircraft parts while you are shooting. ......and I will add one final thing: bring a stout neck strap for your camera and use it---- shooting out that open helicopter window with all that excitement and the wind and the unexpected yawing and bouncing nearly sent my expensive Nikon tumbling down into the jungle more than once during our flight.

Wailua River Headwaters Wailua River Headwaters Wailua River Headwaters

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Page last reviewed 12/19/2021